“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
My goal in 2016 was a continued emphasis on quality experiences in Nature rather than quantity. I didn't get outside for as many days, but I spent longer hours in the field. But since I log my avian observations into eBird, the numbers are available to share.
I birded Pheasant Branch Conservancy 116 times in 2016 and tallied 180 species, compared to 2015’s 149 outings and 181 species. Likely due to my continued insect macro photography pursuits, the drop in outings hasn’t had an impact on observed bird species. Timing and location is everything.
I didn’t do much birding outside of Dane County, but in October I went to Juneau County with friends to see the Purple Gallinule (my only life bird for 2016). Though I took no photographs, my favorite birding memory of the year was visiting Leola Marsh in March to watch the evening flight of Short-eared Owls. Also, it was one of my best years for warbler watching, observing a total of 35 species in southern Wisconsin. Sylvia Marek's Rufous Hummingbird was also a highlight.
Still, the best use of my time continues to be the unhurried and contemplative study of Nature's critters. Through experiences in the field and books I read, each year renders an improved understanding of natural history, wildlife ecology, and our place in the world. It's my hope that readers of my blog sense the immense intimacy and appreciation I experience in Nature through my photography and brief essays. More than anything, I hope it provides you with inspiration.
As we move into 2017, now more than ever, it will be necessary to help support nature, wildlife, and conservation advocacy groups. If there is a silver lining to be found, I believe conservation causes and critical environmental protection laws garner more attention when they're criticized and under attack. Stay informed. Donate what you can – no amount is too small. Join advocacy groups. Volunteer as much as possible. Spread the word via social media and public meetings. Educate and be educated when the opportunities come your way.
One way or another, we're all in for a wild ride.
Happy New Year!
© 2016 Mike McDowell